Portraits & Personalities

The Frick Pittsburgh

Take a look at the fascinating subjects featured in this collection of portraits from the Frick Pittsburgh.

On the back of this devotional diptych, the artist has included a portrait of Jeanne de Boubais, Abbess of the convent at Flines from 1507-1533. It is likely that Jeanne de Boubais (identifiable by the coat of arms above her head) commissioned the painting; she was a loyal patron of Bellegambe, quite unusual for a woman in the early 16th century.

This page is from the gradual (a book containing the hymns of a Mass) of Jeanne de Boubais. Her coat of arms is shown in the left border.

Sir George Howland Beaumont (1753-1827), was a landscape artist, friend and patron of artists and writers, connoisseur and collector of Old Master paintings, and a Member of Parliament.

Beaumont had known the artist, Reynolds, since his student days, and over the years Reynolds became his confidant and mentor.

In May 1778, Sir George Howland Beaumont married Margaret Willes (1758–1829). Attractive and enthusiastic, Lady Beaumont was described by a contemporary as a “young woman with some genius and a prodigious eagerness for knowledge and information.”

This painting depicts the Vanneck family on their estate outside London. Arthur Devis specialized in "conversation pieces," group portraits, like this, which were meant to appear more natural than formal portraiture.

Sir Joshua Vanneck, a wealthy merchant, is shown at the left, with him are his six children, his two sons-in-law, and his sister. (Vanneck’s wife died two years prior to the date of this painting.)

The subject of this portrait, John Hamilton (b. 1713/14), was a captain in the Royal Navy who campaigned for better conditions for his men. Hamilton's informal pose, accented by his unbuttoned coat, creates a lively, individual presence.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816) is famous for his comedic plays, including "The School for Scandal" (1777). Shown here in his mid-30s, Sheridan had already written his most famous plays and begun a Parliamentary career. His best known plays satirize the British society to which he and Thomas Gainsborough belonged.

"1806, Jena" is one of five paintings Meissonier planned depicting the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and his armies. Other finished examples are "1814, The Campaign of France" and "1807, Friedland". In "1806, Jena," Napoleon watches his army inflicting a crushing defeat on the Prussians.

The artist conducted careful research and was a maniacal perfectionist. He often posed himself as the model for the Emperor, wearing an exact replica riding coat and seated in an authentic saddle.

This portrait was probably made while the Princess of Condé was in Brussels after her wedding around 1609. Rubens, had recently returned from Italy and would go on to be the quintessential Baroque artist of the Counter-Reformation period.

Historical anecdote tells us that while the Princess appears pale and overwhelmed by her costume, she was considered a beauty, and had fled to Brussels after her marriage to escape the advances of King Henri IV. A highlight of this sumptuous portrait is Rubens’ gorgeously painted luminous skin.

Here we see the Queen of France in “ordinary dress,” without any attributes identifying her as royalty. Marie Leczinska was the wife of Louis XV, notorious for his liaisons with Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry. He and the Queen had ten children.

The artist, Nattier, had a reputation for painting flattering portraits of the women of the era.

This canvas was commissioned during the final illness of Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV's former mistress and a leading patron of the arts. The artist personifies the arts—painting, sculpture, architecture, and music—showing them on their knees, begging the fates to spare Madame de Pompadour’s life, represented by the thread being spun, measured, and prepared for cutting.

Artists during this period were keen on capturing not just likeness, but a glimpse of personality as well. Here, de la Tour, portrays the important scientist, Charles Marie de la Condamine (1701-1774). La Condamine was part of a team that went to South America to investigate the circumference of the earth.

Houdon has been called the best portrait sculptor of his time and perhaps of all time. He’s captured the likenesses of great men, including George Washington, Voltaire and Napoleon with great precision.

This sentimental portrait of Houdon's youngest daughter Claudine, born in 1788, showcases a masterful expression of textures: fine, silky strands of hair, supple baby skin, and sparkling, lifelike eyes.

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